tv President Lincolns Dreams of Death CSPAN April 2, 2015 12:22am-1:19am EDT
are featuring american history tv in primetime. next a day long forum on the life and legacy of president abraham lincoln from ford's theatre. jonathan white talks about the dreams of death president lincoln is said to have had during his life and how those were interpreted in the years after his assassination. he is the author of emancipation and the reelection of abraham lincoln. ford's theatre cohosted the event. it is just under an hour. my name is douglas wilson. it's my privilege to introduce the first speaker in the 2015 abraham lincoln institute
symposium and he is a young scholar who has already earned an array of honors. he was at penn state and the university of maryland where he earned a master's degree and a phd. the department of history at maryland awarded him its prize in political history. he's already in his books. abraham lincoln published in 2011 and most recently emancipation union army and reelection of abraham lincoln both published by
louisiana state university press. more than two dozen articles have appeared under his name in scholarly journals in popular history magazines and in 2005 he won the john t. hubble prize for the best article in civil war history. his current book project is "midnight in america night sleep and dreams in the civil war." this energetic and resourceful young historian is assistant professor in american studies at christopher new port university here to speak on lincoln and dreams of death. it's a pleasure to introduce professor jonathan w. white. [ applause ] thanks so much. i'm really thrilled to be here
today. i have sat in the audience here at ford's theatre about a dozen times. i almost thought i should have waited until the end of the introduction and made a dramatic entrance on to the stage. i'm hoping since i am first on the program i haven't talked to the folks at ford's but i was wondering if i might be able to recline for the rest of the symposium. i have been coming to the symposium for more than ten years. it happens my wife's birthday is tomorrow which means i am out of town for her birthday almost every year. if you are watching at home. happy birthday. i haven't gotten you a gift but i plan to go to the book table when i'm done here. i will see if there is anything you might like. about two years ago i had an idea to write "a history of dreams during civil wars" and a chapter on soldiers and a
chapter on lincoln. that is what i will focus most of my remarks on today. the civil war placed new and unique strains on lincoln's generation and nightly dreams reflected the hardships. sometimes the war intruded on people's slumber vividly bringing horrors to life in their sleep. for others nighttime was an escape of hard realities. the dreams of civil war era americans revealed the generation's deepest longings desires and struggles and guilt and shame. when americans recorded their dreams in their diaries, letters they sought to make sense of the changing world around them and to cope with the confusion despair and loneliness of life amid the turmoil of a gigantic civil war. i found that northerners and southerners dreamed about abraham lincoln.
union officers dreamed they met with the president to discuss promotions. it didn't always work out the way they hoped. pows dreamed about negotiating prisoner exchanged. some dreamed about having conversations with the president about the end of the war. my favorite, though happens to be a confederate civilians dream. on july 7, 1864 attorney george wooten dreamed he died and went to another world. now, as he approached heaven's gate he asked are there lawyers up here in heaven? the apostle replied he couldn't find any. wooten then said is the mayor of richmond up here in heaven and st. peter said you will find him in that other place so wooten turned around and made his way to what he described as a somber looking castle and above the entrance was painted the world hell. wooten met satan and saw seats
on the floor, some vacant and some occupied by lawyers. and wooten went up to sit in one of the seats and the devil said you can't sit there. that's reserved for the mayor of richmond. he then went to take another seat and the devil said you can't sit there. that's reserved for union general benjamin butler. finally he saw a third seat and he went to sit down and all of the lawyers yelled don't take that seat. he was startled by this. they said that is reserved for old abe, the devil's prompter. wooten woke up saying he woke up shaking and shivering but wishing it was not all a dream. in my last book i wrote about union soldiers and their views of the presidential election of 1864. i found one new york soldier i didn't include that in that book. he wrote this in a letter about lincoln. he said lincoln has become a
vampire that gnaws into the bowels of the country. he is the nightmare beneath the hors of which the nation growns in agony of despair. before abraham lincoln became a vampire hunter he was actually a vampire himself. well, since the civil war americans have been fascinated by lincoln's dreams and prophetic statements such as when in 1861 at independence hall he said he would rather be assassinated on that spot than sacrifice the principles of the declaration of independence. sometimes lincoln's sense of humor came out in his dreams. lincoln's private secretary recorded one such dream in his diary writing lincoln dreamed he was in a party of playing people. as it became known who he was they began to comment on his appearance. one said he is a very common looking man. the president replied in his dream common looking people are
the best in the world. that is the reason the lord makes so many of them. most come from second hand accounts like this. there are a few rare exceptions where we get a glimpse into lincoln's dreams. in 1848 lincoln wrote a letter about a foolish dream he had about robert todd lincoln and it made him very concerned until he got a letter back from mary that stated that robert was okay. in june of 1863, 15 years later lincoln sent a telegraham telling her to put tad's pistol away because he had an ugly dream about him. pointing to the last dream historian richard whiteman fox argued that lincoln believed dreams had some predictive capacity. they weren't actual revelations into the future, fox writes but gave one a sense however murky of what might come to pass. i think that this is a very good
assessment of what lincoln's view of dreams was. now, one of lincoln's most famous dreams was depicted in the recent spielberg movie. lincoln said this to his cabinet. i had the strange dream again last night and we shall judging from the past have great news very soon. secretary of the navy wells asked lincoln about the nature of this remarkable dream to which lincoln replied it had to do with wells' expertise, the water. lincoln then described the dream in some detail. he was on a ship out on the water, some singular vessel that was moving with great repetty. lincoln told the cabinet he had the dream before the attack in 1861 as well as preceding battles of bull run, wilmington and the surrender at vicksburg.
lincoln believed that this dream portended great results hopefully involving sherman's army. generally grant was present at the meeting that day and pointed out that stone's river was certainly no victory and knew of no great results that followed from it. however that might be, lincoln replied, the dream preceded that fight. sitting at the cabinet meeting that morning secretary wells didn't think much about the dream but remembered it shortly thereafter and wrote it in his diary. great events did follow he wrote. for within a few hours the good and gentle as well as truly great man who narrated that dream closed forever his earthly career. the dream is quite good four witnesses recorded it on separate occasions. the most frequently cited account comes from wells' diary. secretary of war also told the
dream to charles dickens in 1868 and dickens wrote about it in a letter to a friend in england. the assistant secretary of state was at the meeting since his father had just had a carriage accident and seward recorded it in his memories in the early 20th century. the new york herald reported the dream in april 1865 before any of lincoln's cabinet members wrote it down. by may of 1865 the story had been repeated in newspapers as far west as san francisco. the dream, in fact continues to fascinate modern readers and has even been the subject of a recent children's book. another dream or vision took place around the time of lincoln's election to the presidency in 1860. while reclining on a couch at his home lincoln looked across the room at a mirror and saw a double image of himself. it startled him because one image was very life like while
the other was ghostly pale. the image disappeared and then he looked back ask the double image appeared again. he walked crazyacross the room to look at it and couldn't see the double image again. there are several accounts that say while he was president in the white house he tried to reproduce this phenomenon and was never able to make it happen. the people who heard this story from lincoln disagree about the meaning of the dream or of the vision but some claimed that lincoln believed that this meant he would live through his first term in office but die in his second. now, a third dream is the most startling. and lincoln allegedly dreamt this a few weeks before his assassination. at first he kept it a secret until the mysteriousness overwhelmed him. one day in early april 1865
according to a friend lincoln approached a small group of friends at the white house which included mary todd lincoln. the president was in a melancholy meditative mood and had been silent for some time. finally mary aroused her husband to speak what was on his mind. it seems strange how much there is in the bible about dreams, lincoln said. there are i think 16 chapters in the old testament and four or five in the new in which dreams are mentioned and many other passages scattered which refer to visions. if we believe the bible we must accept the fact that in the old days god and his angels came to men in their sleep and made themselves known in dreams. now, mary lincoln was struck by her husband's dreadful solemnity and asked do you believe in dreams. i can't say i do lincoln replied but i had one the other night
which has haunted me since. lincoln said he opened up his bible and it fell to the pages in genesis where jacob dreams of a ladder ascending into heaven and there are angels going up and down. lincoln said he turned to several passages each of which dealt with dreams or visions. as lincoln was saying this he looked so serious and disturbed that mary exclaimed you frighten me! what's the matter? lincoln replied he shouldn't have brought the subject up but somehow the thing has got possession of me. according to lamben this made mary more curious and she strongly urged him to tell the dream. he was hesitant but lincoln decided that he would describe the dream and he said he did so with his brow overcast in a shade of melancholy. he recounted lincoln's words as accurately as he can remember them and this is what the president said. about ten days ago i retired
very late. i had been up waiting for important dispatches from the front. i could not have been long in bed when i fell into a slumber for i was wary. i began to dream. there seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. then i heard subdued sobs as if a number of people were weeping. i thought i left my bed and went down stairs. there the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing but the mourners were invisible. i went from room to room. no living person was in sight but the same mournful sounds met me as i passed along. it was light in all the rooms. every object was familiar to me. but where were all the people who were peeping as if their hearts would break? i was puzzled and alarmed. what could be the meaning of all of this? determined to find the cause of state of things so shocking i
kept until i arrived in the east room and met with a sickening surprise. before me was a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. around it were stationed soldiers acting as guards and a throng of people some gazing among the corpse and others weeping pitifully. who is dead in the white house i demanded of one of the soldiers. the president was his answer, killed by an assassin. then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd which awoke me from my dream. i slept no more that night. although it was only a dream i have been strangely annoyed by it ever since. now, mary lincoln responded that the story was horrid and she wished lincoln hadn't told it. i'm glad i don't believe in dreams or i should be in terror from this time forth. lincoln responded it was only a
dream. let's say no more about it and try to forget it. continuing the telling of the story that the dream was so horrible, so real and so in keeping with other dreams and threatening presentments of his that mr. lincoln was profoundly disturbed by it. he said lincoln looked grave, gloomy and pale as he described the vision. he concluded his account by saying there was something about it so real so true to the actual tragedy which occurred soon thereafter that more than mortal strength and wisdom would have been required to let it pass without a shutter or a pang. now, this is a remarkable story. the president dreaming of his own assassination and funeral just a few days before it happened. it's little wonder that popular writers spanning the 20th and 21st centuries such as carl
samburg, doris good win and bill o'reilly have all included in their books. just like last week i was reading destiny of the republic. i was reading it for pleasure. it's a wonderful book about the assassination of james garfield. and claims that secretary of war robert todd lincoln told this dream to president garfield during the final cabinet meeting on june 30 two days before garfield was assassinated. what irony you can't get more than that. historian recently appropriated the story for the title of his new book, lincoln dreamed he died. don't buy that book. wait for mine to come out. the question is is the story true? i think we should be naturally hesitant to accept such a fantasticical story and the
story could be greater cause for concern. first published his account in a newspaper in 1887 more than 22 years after lincoln died. it later appeared in his recollections of abraham lincoln, a book published in 1895. in recollections he claimed to recount the story from notes which i made immediately after its recital in april 1865. now, for years scholars have treated the stories with some reservation. harvard historian said that was highly unreliable in some accounts while stanford historian claimed that more than a little of quotation of lincoln was simply invented. demolished the credibility of the recollection regarding the white house funeral dream pointing out that the timing doesn't make any sense. and there are a few ways pointed
out but most importantly lamben quotes lincoln as saying he was waiting for dispatches from the front in early april 1865 when in fact lincoln was at the front from march 24 through april 9. the analysis should have been enough to discredit the story but even he didn't dig deeply enough into the origins of the dream. i found several versions of the white house funeral dream that predate the telling. the earliest one i found came from a small town pennsylvania newspaper on lincoln's birthday in 1874. a more detailed version appeared in an unsigned article in a literary magazine called "president lincoln's dream". that appeared in march of 1880. it was only after the dream appeared in this literary magazine in 1880 that newspapers around the country began circulating it. the details in this 1880 version
differ in several significant ways from the 1895 account in recollections. first, the 1880 version contains no chronological clues as to when lincoln was supposed to have had the dream compared to lamben who said early april 1865 just before lincoln's death. second lincoln was in conversation with mrs. lincoln and the children in the 1880 version not as described it with only two or three persons present including himself. in the 1880 version it was lincoln's son tad who implored his father do tell the dream and who later called it dreadful. robert todd lincoln makes an appearance in the 1880 version of the story saying i don't wonder that such a dream made such an impression upon you. according to the 1880 version mary lincoln's first exclamation after john wilkes booth shot her
husband was this quote his dream was prophetic. the author of the 1880 article wrote this remark was not understood which makes me think lamben couldn't have written the earlier version since he claimed to be present. clearly he would have known what the dream meant and what mary meant by the statement. i should add that no other period source that i have seen has mary saying his dream was prophetic in that box the moment her husband was shot. in 1866 mary told lincoln's former law partner that in lincoln's later years he never dreamt of death. there are other discrepancies that i won't get into here. i think the most important is that he is go where to be seen in the 1880 version of the story. that 1880 piece concludes, quote, subsequently the circumstances of mr. lincoln's
dream was told to many in washington and formed one of the most impressive incidents connected with the tragedy which gave the nation its imortal martyr. i have done a digital surge of newspapers from 1865 and i found that the ship on the water dream was widely reproduced in 1865 and had gotten wide spread attention in the months after lincoln's death. i found no such mention of this far more provocative white house funeral dream. if it was all the talk around washington as the 1880 article intimates it was surely it would have found its way into the papers. two weeks ago i travelled to the huntington library to look at the private collection of papers to see if i could find evidence into the story. i searched the papers from february through november 1865 to see if there were any notes that were taken. he said he took notes about the dream after lincoln said it. i found no notes related to the
story y. found plenty of other notes for other articles he wrote later in his life and found no krounds from the 1880s. it was typical to correspondent with editors and keep their side of the correspondence. nothing from that editor. i did find a set of about a dozen drafts of letters written to editors all over the country in 1887 saying i have great recollections of lincoln and i will sell them to you if you would like to publish them. clearly he was trying to make a profit off of his personal connection to lincoln. now the most interesting. i found an 1882 letter in which a correspondent sent a long letter about lincoln. as part of the letter the correspondent thanked for sending him a counterfeit presentment. we don't know what that was since the side of the correspondence doesn't survive.
the entire letter was about lincoln and it being dated 1882 which is right after the story begins circulating in the newspapers. i think that he read the story and clipped a copy out and sent it to a friend and called it a counterfeit presentment. it was only later i think, that it was realized that this was a great story to insert himself into. finally, on april 27 1865 wrote a letter to secretary of war saying he last met with lincoln on april 13 but had not spoken with him for three weeks before that. he could not have heard the story from lipgen a few weeks before the assassination which is how he remembered things 22 years later. did he really hear the story from lincoln? >> i don't think so. it was later embellished by a
literary magazine. finally found it and appropriated it and further exaggerated it to include himself in the story. i think the dream was an utter fabrication and i found a newspaper article from the 1940s where some of the todd family claimed that mary todd lincoln actually had the dream a few days before the assassination. so i think in their case someone read it and then gradually as the story was told over generations rather than abraham having the dream it was mary. i found a number of different stories like this. i found at least three other assassination or dreams of death that lincoln had that i think are forgeries. i would be happy to tell you about them during the q&a if you are interested. the question is why are dreams like this so often included in the most widely read books about abraham lincoln? because they are great stories. americans want to read great stories about our greatest leaders.
like the john adams and thomas jefferson both died on july 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the declaration of independence. that one is true, by the way. we are fascinated to know that one of our nation's most revered leaders envisioned his own assassination just days before it happened. the tragedy is gripping. it confirms america's prov denchal place in history and as with any story it seems believable because it is in keeping with what we know about lincoln's life and character. even more importantly stories like these confirm the myths about lincoln that americans long to believe that he was somehow almost supernatural. in a sense i think that the fascination of american biaug raefrbiaug
-- biographers. a rochester woman wrote about a remarkable dream she had that she believed had significant meaning. in the dream she saw a great storm with terrible thunder and lightning and she said it was as though the heavens and earth were coming together. in the dream she saw lincoln standing erect above the clouds and the sun and the thunder and the lightning towering over the city of washington with a book in his hand. she continued, quote, he was crowned with honors and covered with laurels and he looked very smiling. i thought i clapped my hands and sung the following verse which i remembered when i awoke and rose from my bed and i penned it to paper. this is the poem the woman hearden her dream. a voice from the north has proclaimed and slavery is ended and freedom is born. the fair sunny south is restored
one more. secession has ended and slavery is over. think about that. may 1861 prior to the first major battle of the civil war and long before lincoln would issue the emancipation proclamation. this woman envisioned lincoln as a savior to the nation and liberator to the slaves. in these perilous times she wrote she hoped her dream would be a comfort to mrs. lincoln. this woman was not alone. an illinois republican declared at his state's republican convention in 1864 that the great man old abe lincoln is a special gift from god. if we reject him at this convention we reject god all mighty. in his death lincoln almost universally assumed the status of a martyr. the timing of his death could not have been morepressioned. he died the following morning.
on easter sunday northern preachers seemed more preoccupied with lincoln's death than with the resurrection of christ. from the moment of his death the americans begin the process of myth making with lincoln. when secretary of war read the gettysburg at a republican rally in pennsylvania in 1868 he declared that is the voice of god speaking through the lips of abraham lincoln. in a february 12, 1890 speech entitled "savior of the nation" u.s. senator of illinois praised the great hearted patriot and martyr to the cause of union and liberty who had been born on that day four score and one year before. never was there a nobler man born of woman and never throbbed a pure heart and no man has ever existed on the american continent superior to abraham lincoln. indeed lincoln had won
immortality when he died with a martyr's crown of glor hae upon his brow. in 1905 a senator proclaimed lincoln had been trans figured since his death into some mysterious personality with a supernatural commission to help and bless the human race. finally, an idaho senator declared in a dedication in kentucky in 1911 sacred writers had he lived in those days would have placed him among prophets and invested him with hidden powers of the mystic world. antiquity would have clothed such a being with attributes of deity. the dreams became a part of the process. the white house funeral dream and ship on the water dreams appeared frequently in the newspapers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. one union veteran wrote in 1911
no intelligent man questions the visions that crossed the disk of abraham lincoln's slumbers, that wonderful startling portent of tremendous events. over time the mythology surrounding lincoln continued to grow. his lowly humble hearts beginnings, his self-education diligence and hard work steadfast adherence to principle, his moral triumphs in freeing the slaves and restoring the union his premature death on easter weekend. all of these are true yet somehow they have become larger than life. the whole has become greater than the sum of the parts. lincoln has become the ideal national simable, you might say the perfect embodiment of the american dream. i think that lincoln the myth is an important part of america's public memory. within this context it makes
sense that the prophetic dreams have such wide appeal. for all that modern science and psychological theory have given us americans in the 21st century still want to pleev that their dreams have significance and meaning, that something greater than themselves, that fate is real that ordinary americans are ordinary human beings are capable of extraordinary greatness and that their nation is the last best hope of earth which i think it is. americans who lived through the civil war recorded and then communicated their dreams to one another as a coping mechanism for dealing with the deprivations and burdens of the war. in a very real way this process helped the civil war generation sustain themselves and the nation through a long and bloody conflict. in the same way they continued retelling of stories is an
important if not essential part of our national identity. the stories are a part of who we are and help affirm us as a nation. it should come as no surprise that the author of the 1880 article discussing the white house funeral dream closed with the reflection that lincoln's dream of his death was, quote one of the most impressive incidents connected with the tragedy which gave our nation its immortal martyr. imagine that. a fictitious dream a figment of some unknown writer's imagination imagination. it was and remains so today a century and a half later because it afirms for us the greatness of our greatest leader. thank you. [ applause ] there are two mics up front. i am happy to try to answer any
questions you might have. >> something related in some ways to dream s dreams. i don't know have you come across in your research whether lincoln parted and if so did he pleev in them or was he just doing it to satisfy his wife? >> it's true there were seances at the white house. i do believe that lincoln did attend those as well. i don't know the answer to the last part of your question whether or not lincoln believed or was just going to appease mary. this is something that's often debated about lincoln in terms of what his religious beliefs were or what his beliefs about a cultish type things were. i'll say scholars differ on those matters, too. i don't know that lincoln ever
wrote anything down about his views of the seances in the white house. i haven't seen anything so i couldn't answer definitively. i do know that he did attend. talk about the lincoln myth. to what extent has that myth influenced historians? >> that's a big question. to what extent has the myth influenced historians? i think it is inevitable that the myth influences historians. why do historians get interested in lincoln? because you grow up hearing stories. i think lincoln is our greatest president and greatest leader. all of the things about him are true in terms of his rise to greatness. but i think what good historians do is they look at the evidence and they try to hold themselves to the evidence that is before them in the things that people
wrote at the time. so while the myths will certainly influence us we try to be diligent. i don't know if that answers your question. it's hard to be more precise in that regard. >> thank you. you mentioned some other dreams. what were some of those? >> i will talk about a few of the other dreams that lincoln had or that are attributed to him. these i don't think are true although this is just my view, i guess. this is the historian trying to look through the evidence. in 1944 there was an auction catalog that had a little manuscript of lincoln writing that he dreamt he was being buried alive and this was a terrifying thing. it was sold at auction. roy when he collected lincoln's papers and published them in the 1950s he put that as a forgery.
there was another one where this one you might say is an inadvertent forgery. and this maybe will address the last question a little bit, as well. i was reading a book called "the destructive war". and it was published in 1991. a small section on dreams. he describes one of lincoln. he said this. on the last night of 1862 after news of the fighting lincoln dreamed of corpses on the battlefield in tennessee of gun fire in the night of exhausted soldiers in the rain and of crowds reading casualty lists posted near the white house. i thought this was a pretty remarkable dream. there is a battle going on in tennessee hundreds of miles away and lincoln is dreaming about it. the problem is didn't provide a foot note for that story. and it just so happened that
later i was going through steven oats' biography of lincoln and he had written this about 15 years before. that night the night before january 1, 1863, lincoln tossed in fitful sleep dreaming of corpses on a distant battlefield in tennessee, of guns flashing in the night of silent troops lying exhausted in the rain, of crowds reading casualty returns at willards hotel. roister didn't cite anyone but i think he took the story. the language is almost identical in those two sentences. oats cited benjamin thomas's 1950 something dieg of lincoln. this is what thomas had to say. aberrations of dead soldiers and tortured the president's sleep. now, the problem i ran into here
is that benjamin thomas didn't have a foot note so i couldn't trace where thomas got the story from. i started doing reading on thomas and i found that what thomas had a tendency to do was to try to put himself into lincoln's mind and figure out what was going on there. and try to capture a scene with a little bit of artistic license. he admitted to doing this on at least four occasions in his biography of lincoln. so what happens on january 1, 1863? the emancipation proclamation. thomas was trying to figure out what might have been causing lincoln to lose sleep leading up to it? he must have been thinking about death on the battlefield. thomas wrote this story and then steven oats took that as a dream. charles roister took it as a particular dream on a particular night. and so the story just evolved over time to bogue a dream that lincoln had about dead soldiers. roister went so far as to say
that this dream allowed lincoln to experience combat in a way that the soldiers did. and so you can see how the myths grow over time just through maybe a little bit of carelessness in citation. there is one other one. there are several other dreams. i will point to one since i see another question coming. lincoln had another body guard. and william crook wrote two one in 1910 and another in 1911. in the 1911 i will go backwards in reverse chronology here. in the 1911 he claimed that lincoln told him of an assassination dream on the three nights leading up to lincoln's assassination. lincoln had this dream three recurring nights and on april 14 lincoln tells crook about the dreams and crook is so terrified that he pleads with lincoln to let him come to ford's with him. lincoln says you are tired.
go home and go to sleep. then lincoln turns to crook and says good bye, crook. every other time, every other night crook said lincoln said good night, crook. on april 14 lincoln said good bye. and it was very compelling. we don't know what the dream was because crook didn't write it down. but the question again is how reliable is this remembererance? and we can't know definitively. i went back to the 1910. in that one crook makes no mention of the scary assassination dream that lincoln had three nights before he was killed. and crook says only mentions the ship on the water dream in his 1910 and he didn't mention that he had heard it from lincoln. he described it as a matter of record. and i think crook published the first in 1910.
then he thought i can make this even better story in 1911 and i think that's what he did. and i can't disprove it but my theory is he wanted to tell a better story. >> this may be a trivial point but my understanding was that while lincoln did bring up the story of the ship on the water that he did not mention that he had that dream the night before. i got the impression that you said that he had. >> he had according to wells' diary he had that dream the night before his final cabinet meeting. yeah. >> i just recently discovered the writings of general thomas harris wrote a book entitled "rome's responsibility in the assassination of abraham lincoln." he served on the tribunal that
prosecuted. i wonder if you can speak of the conversations with the former roman catholic priest lincoln defended as a client and his concern after the pope of rome having correspondented and recognized jefferson davis as president of the confederate states of america that lincoln felt a mark of [ inaudible ] effectively with rome having announced the dissolution of the union. >> that is beyond the purview of my research. professor could you say more about dreams by john wilkes booth? >> i wish i could. you know, i haven't looked into that. have there been -- i will have to ask other speakers if there is anything on john wilkes booth's dreams. i don't know.
>> [ inaudible ] any relationship between the lincoln's outlook and all of those things? >> you know, so when i was in high school i had a two cent piece from 1864, the first coin to bear the motto "in god we trust." i remember taking that two cent piece to school and showing my classmates and it didn't come home with me that day. i think i have just blocked from my memory ever since 1995. i don't remember -- it would have been passed by congress to get that put on to the coins and lincoln would have signed it. i don't know the -- i imagine the motivation is fairly obvious. are you asking if it was a connection to his dreams?
>> inclination towards religion and all of these things. and the year. 1864. so that connection i'm saying any comments? >> i couldn't say definitively. i would imagine it in part would be to encourage and motivate northerners in the conflict. i couldn't imagine that it would be connected to lincoln's dreams at all. you certainly as you are eluding to you see a development in lincoln's views of religion over the course of his life particularly during the civil war years when he runs for congress in the 1840s accused of being an infidel and atheist. and by march of 1865 you get this incredible second nogular address. so lincoln i honestly don't know. he may have been a prime mover behind getting that on the coinage. i just don't know. >> thank you -- is that a
question coming up? i thought i was off the hot seat. >> you talk about how the nation in trauma resorted to dreams for some solace and guidance yet our nation in trauma after 9/11 seemed to resort to conspiracy theories. can you talk about the psychology of a nation or the nation during the civil war and why they were more likely to turn to dreams than the nation might be today? >> sure. i should say i'm not a licensed psychologist. i am a historian. i will approach it from that perspective. so i have been looking at sleeps and dreams. i worry because it might make for a snooze. what i found is soldiers wrote
about sleep all the time in their letters. and i think that they did that because that was a way for them to connect with people at home. so a soldier who might be hundreds of miles away and weeks from having communicated with a spouse or a parent or a child they could know that they were going to bed at the same time. and that was a shared experience. i found several instances where soldiers write to their loved ones and say it's january 1 and i'm going to read two chapters from the bible every night and i will read genesis 1 and 2 tonight and 3 and 4 tomorrow. if you want to read along with me you can do that. i think sleep became a powerful way for soldiers and their loved ones to communicate with one another and feel like they were closer than they were. and so i think that their discussion of dreams grew out of that. what i found is that soldiers and civilians love to communicate their dreams with one another. i think that that was a way for them to encourage one another
soldiers would write home and say that i dreamt i was with you. and i was so upset when i woke up. and psych logically i think that provided a firm connection between people who were hundreds of miles apart. that was the only way they could communicate. i can't really speak to the -- today i haven't thought about the post 9/11 in that much detail. that is what i see going on during the civil war. >> thank you. >> sure. you have been waiting here first. >> really just a comment on the previous question. i'm a park ranger with the national park service. i believe the in god we trust comes from the fourth verse of the star spangled banner. >> let this be our motto and in god we trust.
yeah, that jogged my memory. >> professor i'm cure yousz if you know, did mary path lincoln have any dreams? and were they recorded in any way, et cetera? and how common were sayeances back then? >> there was a rise in belief in cull tish things in the mid 19th century. i don't know how common it would have been to have seances in the white house. in terms of mary's dreams, i almost feel like i should turn to joan on that or others in the audience. i know that mary was sometimes concerned about lincoln's dreams. but in terms -- i can't speak to her dreams in themselves. but in april 1865 lincoln was traefling, he was in virginia at the front.
he had a dream that the white house was on fire. and lincoln may have had reason to be concerned about that. the white house stable had caught on fire in february, 1864. so mary got very involved in terms of making sure that everything was okay. sending a telegram back to someone at the white house to make sure that everything was okay and then she went back to the white house and telegraphed lincoln to make sure everything is okay here. so i can't speak to her dreams, but i do know that she was involved in listening to lincoln's sdreems and participate in someway. >> thank you. >> i can tell you the other first lady had a number of dreams about jefferson davis. about her husband. and, in the 1840s, she dreamt that she kissed davis as he was leaving. but then, in 1862, she had a
very similar dream. you could see where there might be something going on there where she's more self conscious about her role as first lady. she also saw jefferson's arm was lopped off when captured by union soldiers. >> i'm the digital projects theater here at ford's theater. i've within live tweeting the talk. i've got a question via twitter. this one isn't as much about dreams, but a man named mark lockhardt asked dr. white, what is the most commonly overlooked part of the assassination? the accomplices? would you like to express an opinion? >> well, that's a good tweet. that's the first tweet i've ever received. [ laughter ] i'll tell you what i'll leave that to the next speakers. >> thank you so much. >> sounds good.
>> thank you. i'm dr. john r. sellers. ageing historian, retired from the library of congress. i think one of the tasks of anyone introducing a speaker is to stride to establish a spirit of contact, rapport with the audience. i'm introducing steven a. goldman, my psychiatrist. [ laughter ] friend. [ laughter ] .